How do you define the Golden Rule? Do you, like many of the middle schoolers I worked with as a school counselor, believe it means you treat people the same way they treat you? If they’re nice to you, you’re nice to them. If they cross you, watch out! Pay-back ain’t pretty.
People, very often, use the behavior of others to rationalize their own bad behavior. Scroll through FB if you don’t believe me. Or watch the evening news. There is this unhealthy push to try to even the score in our modern society, whether the offense is real or imagined. I think it’s destroying us from the inside.
Jesus said the Golden Rule sums up the Law and the Prophets. The Law which God gave Moses to show us how we need to live our lives, how we are to consider others and revere God. The word “respect” comes to mind.
The Prophets told us about how God relates to it all. The words “holy,” and “fear,” and “awe” come to mind. And Jesus said the Golden Rule wraps it all up in a neat little package.
In these three chapters in the book of Matthew, Jesus spells out the practical side of life as His followers. If you want to know what the Golden Rule looks like…
Jesus said we are to be salt. A preservative, a flavor enhancer which needs to be applied to be useful. He said we are to be light, not hidden. A light which reveals sin by dispelling the darkness, then leads people to the Savior by lighting their way. (5:13-16)
He tells us we are to have a righteousness that is note-worthy. We who know the Savior know we have no righteousness of our own. But when Jesus clothes us with His righteousness, people can’t help but notice! (5:17-20)
Jesus tells us, in essence, if we want to live the Golden Rule, we can’t hate, or damage someone’s reputation, or get caught up in the name-calling. He says we need to settle disputes quickly, not sit around and seethe, or post a rant on FB, or spout off to a friend. (5:21-26)
He tells us to guard our hearts and minds, to look the other way instead of giving in to lust. I can’t help but think of the access to porn that is so readily available to people, including our children. Even the “soft porn” seen in many TV shows and commercials all day long. Jesus tells us we don’t have to do the deed in order to commit adultery. (5:27-32)
Jesus tells us to be honest, to keep our word without some grandiose gesture. A simple “yes” or “no” should be enough. Didn’t people used to say, “A man is as good as his word?” Hmmmm… (5:32-37)
Then Jesus gives us some hard to manage, not all that popular, words concerning people who do us wrong: Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Be generous even if you might not be reimbursed. Love your enemies. Do good things for them. (5:38-48)
He tells us that, whether we are serving, giving, or praying, let it be between us and God. Face it, people who brag are usually ones to avoid anyway. (6:1-13)
Then Jesus says we need to forgive. Forgive. He doesn’t put the “if they deserve it” disclaimer in there. In fact, He says we are to forgive like we are forgiven by Him. (vs 12) None of us deserve that. (6:14-18)
Jesus tells us not to get caught up in the pursuit of material wealth. Again, people with that as a priority are boring, too. I don’t see how we can be salt and light if we are boring people to distraction by our constant talk of money, or worry about having our needs met. Know that God is able to meet all of our needs, and leave it at that. (6:19-34)
Jesus also tells us not be judgmental. We need to first recognize sin in our own lives, and repent of it. Then we need to reach out and encourage others to recognize their own sin so that they can repent of theirs as well. (7:1-6)
That about sums it up. Life would be so much better if we really did treat each other with respect, gentleness, generosity, honesty, purity, love, if we would think of others more highly than we think of ourselves. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be treated like that? Jesus would tell you, do for others exactly the way you would like to be treated yourself.
Don’t wait for someone else to start truly living by the Golden Rule. Why shouldn’t it start with you?